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Upcoming Film: The Wolf of Wolfsburg?

Volkswagen is a well-known German automobile manufacturer headquartered in the City of Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony, Germany.

In mid-October 2015, there was some chatter about a possible major “Hollywood” film based on a reportedly forthcoming book about the Volkswagen emissions defeat device uproar.  Based partly on fact and partly on speculation, some chapters could possibly be summarized as follows:

By late October, Chapter Three—[suggested title] Das Motor: Engines so complicated even we don’t understand how they work! revealed Volkswagen [VW] searching older versions of its latest EA 288 diesel engines for the offending software while insisting that the two main versions of the engine, the euro 5 and euro 6 did not include it, meaning less chance of more affected vehicles.  But it did not say which variants of the EA 288 engine it was examining, nor how many vehicles might be affected.

In Chapter Four—[suggested title] VWs first quarterly loss in 15 years but “a fun place to work,” VW’s management announced an operating loss of 3.48-billion euros (US$3.86 billion) in the third quarter after setting aside 6.7-billion euros to cover repairs.  But they coupled this with a new business strategy involving “a hard look at some 300 models [VW] produces to decide if they make sense” and the following prescription for a “more fun” workplace: “leaders [bringing] a new spirit of openness and cooperation to life.”

In early November —Chapter Five [suggested title from USA Today] Where does VW’s road of deceit end?things took a dramatic downturn with the US Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] finding defeat devices in more VW brands and models: “the 3-liter diesel engine versions of the 2014 VW Touareg, the 2015 Porsche Cayenne and the 2016 Audi Q5.”  In a qualified statement, VW disputed these findings but remained unable to announce any fixes.  The next indignity: The EPA, California Air Resources Board, and Environment Canada had discovered [this] additional cheating while testing VW’s and other car companies’ vehicles, in which they, however, “found nothing similar.”

Chapter Six continued downwards with VW announcing “unexplained inconsistencies” in the CO2 emissions from 800,000 of its vehicles, “predominantly [those] with diesel engines,” thereby raising “the possibility for the first time that some VWs with gasoline-powered motors may also have emissions problems.”  Five days later, when the German newspaper, Bild am Sonntag reported that several VW engineers admitted manipulating CO2 emissions data because goals set by former management were difficult if not impossible to achieve otherwise, analysts revised the scandal costs upward to 35 billion euros (US$38 billion) for fines, lawsuits, and vehicle refits.

Chapter Seven—[suggested title] Whole global companies can become about One Man offers the perspective of Bob Lutz, who served as a senior executive with Chrysler, then Ford and then GM, and now operates a consultancy business.  Writing in Road and Track magazine, Mr. Lutz says it comes down to one powerful person saying:  “You will sell diesels in the U.S., and you will not fail.  Do it, or I’ll find somebody who will.”

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